Hazellewood Grill and Tap Room (Tonka Bay, MN)

By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Star Tribune West
February 8, 2006

We like neighborhood restaurants so good that we wish we lived in the neighborhood. The pretty Hazellewood Grill and Tap Room, out in Tonka Bay, is just such a place.

They've got a fun, and unusual, twist in the individual beer taps in some booths in the bar. You can pour your own if you happen to get a booth serving what you like to drink.

But attractive, fun surroundings only go so far. It's wonderful food that keeps our attention.

Start with the bread basket, here served as hot popovers, but don't fill up. You'll want the beef tenderloin and bleu cheese fondue. You'll get a platter of beef chunks done to about medium, cubes of chewy sourdough, a pile of roasted tomatoes, and a crock of Maytag bleu cheese fondue. Rich and fabulous, split this among three or four people.

The onion rings are the least-greasy version we've ever tasted. The dusting of flour on buttermilk-dipped onions cooks up crisp and perfect, although at almost two inches wide they're clumsy to eat. The chipotle ketchup is wonderful.

Another excellent appetizer is the walleye cakes. No shortage of good fresh fish here, they don't rely on excess breading to bulk up the dish. Not everyone liked the homemade tartar sauce served along with it.

On to the entrees. The salt and herb-crusted prime rib is a good value. Though it suffers from the chronic problem of prime rib everywhere (it cools off too quickly), the meat is perfectly done and tastes wonderful. The horseradish cream served alongside adds an understated hot note. Accompanying is the first-rate "smashed potatoes," a skin-on presentation with lots of homey lumps and a hint of parmigiano-reggiano cheese. We were charmed by the free gravy.

Another specialty is the Hazellewood Chop Salad, a forkable mélange of greens, chicken, apples, corn, bleu cheese and more. A seemingly weird combination, it's delicious. Though the bowl makes the salad appear small, it's a full meal.

The burgers are half-pound huge and taste fresh and fabulous. The buns are oiled and grilled, and were too greasy for us, but the toppings are all plentiful and good.

One of the delights of the menu is the array of fresh vegetable sides to choose from. Their green beans and almonds, the garlicky spinach, and the grilled asparagus are all superb ways to eat your veggies.

Desserts don't meet the standard of the rest of the menu. We liked everything well enough, but we had hoped to rave, and we just didn't.

Hazellewood isn't a cheap meal. While most entrees cost less than $20, the more interesting sides and appetizers can easily push the bill to $30 per person before drinks, tax, and tip.

With so many tasty dishes, Hazellewood is a great addition to the Lake Minnetonka culinary scene. The area has been in need of a kick in the checked pants for any number of years now, and we hope Hazellewood becomes part of a larger trend.

Location:
5635 Manitou Road, Tonka Bay, MN 55331
Phone: (952) 401-0066
http://www.hazellewoodgrill.com

Hours: Mon–Thu: 4:00–10:00 PM
Fri–Sat: 4:00–11:00 PM
Sun: 4:00–9:00 PM

Atmosphere: Convivial and upscale, families welcome
Service: More scattershot that it should be
Sound level: Noisy in the bar, but not aggressively so
Recommended dishes: Tenderloin and bleu cheese fondue, burgers
Prices: Sandwiches $10–$13, entrees $12–$25
Children: Special dishes for kids, including "Noodles & Butter"

earlier review: RSA 2006 Restaurant Guide (San José, CA)
later review: Serum's Good Time Emporium (Anoka, MN)
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